Lottomatica backs out of Greek lottery bid; Schleswig-Holstein delays treaty vote


greece-germany-schleswig-holsteinShortly after the Greek privatization agency overseeing the auction for the right to operate the state-owned Hellenic Lotteries accepted the offer made by the sole bidder – a multinational consortium comprising Greek firms OPAP and Intralot, Italy’s Lottomatica and America’s Scientific Games – one of those companies has already succumbed to buyer’s remorse. Lottomatica has announced it is withdrawing from the consortium, transferring its one-third stake in the venture to OPAP and retaining one lone share just to keep its oar in the water. Scientific Games stated that it held a 16.5% stake in the consortium.

The Hellenic Republic Assets Development Fund (HRADF) estimates the value of the deal to be €1.5b over the 12-year length of the concession, which Reuters stated was more than Lottomatica was prepared to invest. An earlier bid by the consortium was rejected by HRADF as too low. The Greek government will receive 30% of the lottery’s gross revenues (with the exception of the New Year’s lottery) and is guaranteed €580m over the length of the concession, plus unclaimed winnings, which the HRADF estimated would total €170m.

No doubt too busy counting all the new revenue, Greek parliamentarians neglected to begin a planned debate on their controversial proposal to broaden OPAP’s monopoly over offline gambling to encompass online betting as well. That proposal has elicited a torrent of abuse from European gaming associations and online gambling operators, some of whom had made ‘make-good’ payments of back taxes to January 2010 in order to be considered for provisional licenses.

Greek parliamentary indecisiveness appears to have migrated north to the German state of Schleswig-Holstein (S-H). This week, legislators were supposed to hold the second reading of the draft bill to repeal the Gambling Act passed by the state’s former ruling coalition and adopt the more restrictive German Interstate Treaty signed by the other German länder. However, it appears that legislators were spooked by the European Commission’s Dec. 7 opinion that S-H’s waffling had prompted “real concern” over the compatibility of German gaming law with EU ideals. The previous S-H administration passed a law allowing operators to offer online poker, casino and sports bets with a 20% gross profits tax, while the federal treaty is sports betting only taxed at 5% of turnover. Multiple licenses have been issued by S-H since the legislation was passed, but only for sports betting so far, and operators have threatened to file for compensation if S-H revokes these licenses.

Given that the Friday marks the S-H legislators’ final sitting day this year, DLA Piper reports that the deadline for a vote on the bill has been extended to Jan. 7, 2013. Meanwhile, Jan. 21 is the deadline for companies wishing to apply for one of the 20 sports betting licenses up for grabs under the federal treaty, and Jan. 24 will see Germany’s Federal Court of Justice deliver its verdict on the legality of the federal gambling treaty. All in all, it promises to be a hectic start to the new year for German legislators and would-be German-facing operators.